White House Asks CDC to Study How Many Have Died After COVID Vaccine Shots


The White House COVID-19 task force has asked the Centers for Disease Control to conduct a comprehensive study on how many Americans have died since receiving the vaccine and the circumstances that led to their death, according to two officials familiar with the matter.

Officials aren’t concerned that the vaccine is having adverse effects on a large number of recipients. Instead, they are pushing for the study in order to ensure the federal government has a more complete picture of mortality in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to gather more data about the vaccine, its efficacy, and what happened to the recipients after they got the jab.

It’s an especially pressing issue, given the vulnerable and aging populations receiving the vaccine. According to the CDC, about 3 percent of 75-year-olds die within their next year of life. With millions of people receiving the vaccine, odds are some will die within a matter of weeks or months, for reasons that may or may not have anything to do with COVID-19. It’s also expected that some individuals who receive it will die in between the first and the second dose or after the regiment is completed, officials said, especially if they have a pre-existing illness that is advanced.

The White House coronavirus task force wants to know whether individuals who have received the shot died as the result of an adverse event linked to the vaccination, such as anaphylaxis, from a coronavirus-related illness such as pneumonia, or from something else entirely.

Currently, the CDC does not have a good way to track deaths that occur after vaccination in real time, officials said. The study would have to come from state health departments, many of whom are already overwhelmed with other data collection efforts related to COVID-19, including testing, case positivity, hospitalizations, and vaccine distribution.

The CDC has worked throughout the last year to reduce COVID-19 data reporting gaps but has struggled to collect timely information from some state health departments. The agency’s COVID mortality dataset—its information on how many suffered coronavirus-related deaths—is currently about five weeks behind, officials said. Its system for tracking vaccine complications is far from comprehensive. With 4,000 people dying per day and another million getting the COVID vaccine, such shortcomings and lags in data can present a particularly blurred picture. The agency is working on a 2020 mortality report analyzing coronavirus-related deaths in the first year of the pandemic. It is set to be released sometime in the spring, officials said, adding that there are no current plans to include vaccination data in the current CDC COVID-19 mortality analysis.